By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Though he's said that "Everything German should be destroyed!"--one of ATR's best singles is "Deutschland (Has Gotta Die!)"--Empire is ein Berliner to the core, and positively Wagnerian in his gift for bombast. "I am not officially a resident in any country, which makes it difficult for the police to control me," the would-be public enemy said in one interview. Millennial exhaustion (or is that exhausting millennialism) may have taken over the depressingly escapist pop world, but Empire aims to be an old-fashioned uebermensch, set to "Hunt Down the Nazis!" and pierce the "utter tedium" of the music industry while he's at it. He's a classic Angry Young Man, one you can easily imagine muttering "Fuck cappuccino capitalism!!!!" as he passes a Kreuzberg cafe on his way back to the squat.
Meaning, his politics are a ball of confusion. Not only does he jack the tired iconic juice of the RAF like countless Baader-fuckoff gangs before him, he marches in line like a true kraut-punk street solider. In that radical lefty tradition, any societal ill--racism, anti-Semitism, meat eating, paying tort, "fashion-sucking"--meets with equal outrage and calls to arms. Take, for instance, the entire DIR stable's rabid hatred of...ravers? "Take a power saw and fuck all female ravers thru their fuckin' tits!!!!" reads a liner note to Killout Trash's "Signe Says." So much for DHR's usually female-friendly aggression.
But ATR's "Raverbashing" is more than just a flip-off to a "sold-out" scene. This multiracial crew--Crack is from Swaziland, Elias is Syrian, Empire's socialist grandfather died in a Nazi camp--seems genuinely disheartened by the rave nation's failed rainbow coalition promise. At heart, Empire's a cynical idealist who just can't give up the ghost. Why even bother yelling about anything if you don't think it will make a difference? I just wish his rhetoric weren't so simplistic and hyperbolic that only a 12-year-old could take it seriously.
Sigh. It's not easy to be a revolutionary anymore: should anarcho-punks bomb MTV or "subvert" it with their videos? Can you be both a fight-the-power anticapitalist and a Capitol-ist at the same time? In any case, when Atari Teenage Riot opened for Rage and the Wu-Tang at the Meadowland last August, the trickle-down effect of glib calls to "start the riot" were clear: soon after their set, a bunch of white guys marauded through the stadium, goosing girls, ripping out seats, and fighting security guards on their way to the mosh pit. High fives, dude--we stuck it to the Man! What did Empire think of the spectacle? My guess is that he shrugged it all off. After all, Amerika is just a wounded paper tiger bleeding Coca-Cola blood!!!!@#$%!!
Atari Teenage Riot, EC8OR, and Shizuo play Irving Plaza November 20.